Sunday, October 13, 2013

Summer To Remember Part 4 - September Stretch Run

For once, the Pirates didn't go into a September swoon. They finished out at 15-12, beating the Brewers to break their two-decade losing streak, whipping Texas to ensure a winning year at long last, winning dramatically over the Cubs to take a wildcard spot and running the table on the Reds at GABP to get home field advantage in the elimination game. The Bucs ended the season with 94 wins, the fifth best total in MLB, two games behind the NL Central leaders, the St. Louis Cards.

  • September 1 - The opening pitch was tossed out not by a human celebrity, but by a trebuchet (a catapult), designed by the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. The first machine to ever toss a ceremonial ball at PNC Park, it delivered a strike to the designated catcher, the Pirate Pirate, 10 minutes before the game against the St. Louis Cards was to begin. The Bucs might have been better off keeping the contraption on the mound, as they lost to the Redbirds 7-2. 
  • September 3 - Travis Snider’s ninth inning homer lifted the Pirates to a 4-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park and gave Pittsburgh a two-game lead in the NL Central. It also snapped a 20-year losing streak by the franchise by earning the Bucs their 81st win, a run of futility unmatched by any other major professional sports team in North America. There were more contributors than Snider, though - Andrew McCutchen, Justin Morneau and Marlon Byrd combined to go 7-for-10 with three RBI and three runs scored, Mark Melancon picked up the save for Vin Mazzaro, and Gerrit Cole, who gave up a pair of first inning runs after just three batters, came back to put up zeroes through six innings and retired the last 12-of-13 hitters he faced. Cutch’s homer was his 100th, putting him in the Bucco 100 HR/100 steal club along with Barry Bonds, Al Martin, Andy Van Slyke, Dave Parker and Paul Waner. And in a final bit of irony, the Brewers had broken their club record 12 season losing streak at PNC Park in 2005, so it was fitting the Bucs returned the favor at Miller. 
  • September 9 - The Pirates clinched their first winning season since 1992 with a 1-0 win over Yu Darvish and the Texas Rangers at the Ballpark in Arlington. Rookie Gerrit Cole went seven innings of three hit ball, walking a pair and striking out nine, with Tony Watson and Mark Melancon pitching two innings of one hit ball to seal the deal. The game was scoreless until two outs in the seventh when Marlon Byrd and Pedro Alvarez hit back-to-back doubles to produce the game’s only run. The win broke a four game losing streak and moved the Pirates within a game of first place St. Louis. 
  • September 13 - Pedro Alvarez, Russ Martin and Garrett Jones hit back-to-back-to-back homers in the fourth inning off the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta, but a pair of two-run Chicago blasts carried the day as the Pirates fell 5-4. It was the first time that the Bucs had hit three consecutive homers at PNC Park and had an improbable degree of difficulty as Pedro’s was an inside-the-park shot. 
  • September 20 - The Bucs started off on fire when Jose Tabata and Neil Walker led off the game with homers for the fourth time in club history, and the Pirates were cruising along when Francisco Liriano K'ed Chris Heisey in the eighth for his 1,000th strikeout, also setting the team record for K's at 1,193, breaking last year's mark. But the 5-2 lead wasn’t enough to hold off the Cincinnati Reds, who scored three unearned runs in the ninth keyed by a two out error by Jordy Mercer. Cincy won in the 10th on a wrong way home run by Joey Votto that just dropped over the fence and a few feet inside the LF pole to stun the Bucs at PNC Park 6-5 and tie the teams for second place in the NL Central and the home wildcard spot with eight games to go in the season. 
  • September 21 - AJ Burnett struck out a dozen Cincinnati Reds in seven innings, becoming the first Pirate RHP to whiff over 200 batters in a season with 203 K, as the Bucs took a 4-2 decision at PNC Park. The big blow was a two run homer by Russ Martin, and the tying and go-ahead runs were set up by Marlon Byrd, who hit a sac fly to drive in Andrew McCutchen and move Justin Morneau to second, where he scored on a two-out knock by Pedro Alvarez. 
  • September 23 - For the first time in 21 years, the Pirates clinched a playoff spot with a 2-1 win at Wrigley Field. Charlie Morton tossed seven innings of three hit ball through seven and was up 1-0 on Neil Walker’s first inning homer. The Cubs tied it in the eighth on a ball that scooted through a drawn up infield, but the Bucs retook the lead in the ninth on Starling Marte’s two out, two strike homer deep into the bleachers. The drama wasn’t quite over; with two outs and Nate Schierholtz on first, Ryan Sweeney blooped a ball into right that glanced off Marlon Byrd’s mitt. Schierholtz was waved around, but an Andrew McCutchen-to-Justin Morneau-to-Russ Martin relay and tag were just enough to give Mark Melancon the win and Jason Grilli the save. 
  • September 28 - Behind a six home run barrage (Neil Walker-2, Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Marlon Byrd and Andrew Lambo), the Pirates won home field advantage for their wild card game against the Reds by defeating Cincinnati 8-3 at GABP. It was the first time since August, 2007, versus the Rockies at Coors Field that Pittsburgh banged out that many long balls in a game. For Walker, it was his first career multi-homer game, and for Lambo, his first career MLB homer.

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